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Helios transforms your iPhone into a telepresence robot

•, By Jason Falconer
 Telepresence robots are beginning to connect people in new ways in businesses, hospitals, and even classrooms. They're essentially webcams on wheels, serving as simple avatars that allow you to chat and explore another place. Now inexpensive versions that connect with your smartphone are beginning to appear for use at home.

The latest of these comes from Hello Labs, a start-up led by Tian Long Wang (who has earned degrees at both Cambridge and Princeton) that has created Helios – a simple, US$120 telepresence robot designed specifically for the home that uses iPhone 4, 4S, 5. The company just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its development, where early adopters can buy in for as little as US$99 (with the first units shipping in February 2013).

Set up seems fairly idiot-proof. All you have to do is turn on the app, plop your iPhone into the Helios attachment, and the person on the other end of the line (via a web browser) can take control of the robot. The remote user's inputs are sent with their video feed as black and white markers along the bottom edge of the screen, which the Helios's sensors interpret as commands. This handy little trick means the Helios doesn't need to physically connect with your iPhone at all.

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